Adventures: Throwback to Italia (Part 1)

You know how some experiences don't really sink in as valid and incredible until later in time, possibly when recapping on old pictures?

There is nothing like the coffee
in Italy...so rich and smooth.
More than a year ago I was casually walking the streets of Rome, Italy, having spent the previous 8 days in many other cities and attractions of the country.

A year...already...and I am just itching to book another couple of weeks and get out of here again. I crave it!

I just figured if I posted my favorite photographs from my adventures in Italia, I may actually be inspired to make another once-in-a-lifetime vacation happen.

 


As a disclaimer, I admit I am not a historical expert, nor was I on this trip to become one--half the time my friends and I just enjoyed what we saw, unaware what significance some of the monuments or landmarks had. 

Someone would tell us "you have to see...!" and so we'd make out the best of our maps and head that way only to discover deja vu (aka, we had already seen it, we just didn't know what we were looking at).

After wandering the dark alleys of Milan in search of our hostel the night before (thank God for helpful locals), our first big stop was Venice, or more commonly known to Italians and the train station terminology as Venezia. 

In spite of it's decrepit condition and all the hullabaloo of tourism, there really is something unique and romantic about this city.

You could choose to be appalled by the grimy waters or you could just appreciate the fact that it has been preserved and left as is.

We chose the latter; because there is something to be said of the ethereal amidst the real.

If only modern society had a portion of the passion and perfectionism that some of these ancient cultures had when it came to architecture and just about everything else, right?

Surprisingly we saw quite a bit our first day there.

But I'll try to spare the cliches and an overload of pictures.

I will say that you really can't trust the directions listed by your hostel or hotel booking sites, not because they're lying to you, but because they give street names that are next to impossible to locate while riding a bus or even while walking. Not to mention everything is in Italian (duh) and also has 3 other names it is known by!

This goes for every Italian city--street names are a myth. I advise looking over a map long and hard before hitting the ground running.

Most of the time, though, we weren't looking for anything in particular. We just wanted to absorb.

Generally, we tried to steer away from the large crowds and all the wannabes shoving trinkets and charms in our faces.
Orange glaze crepe

We did, of course, eat ridiculous amounts of gelato and anything made from dough.

I regret nothing.

We stayed at Hotel Villa Dori just outside of Venice and took the bus in to town which only took about 10-15 minutes; I thought it was worth the lesser price and fun to start the day in a small, quiet suburb before joining the rest of the tourists in the main city.

Doges Palace, Venice, Italy
Venice at night from Rialto Bridge
Doges Palace, Venice, Italy
After our two night stay there, we were off to explore the other side of the country--and we took the express rail to La Spezia, which connected to a smaller railway leading to the western coastal region known as Cinque Terre.

When we arrived that afternoon we found the rain to be coming down consistently. But this did not stop us from exploring.

Riomaggiore
Sea Bass, a local fave (fish head included)
Our room above a local cafe called Hotel Zorza could not have been more quaint and well-located.

Each morning we would eat a fresh pastry and down a latte, on the house.

The old men with pipes, cigars, and playing cards never seemed to leave; they didn't really speak to us (not that they could) but they never made us feel uncomfortable or unwelcome either.

In fact, our first night we enjoyed some friendly banter of all things culture, lifestyle, and religion with a couple gentlemen, one from England (drinking his tea) and the other a native from Rome who spoke clear English.

Riomaggiore
This was the place to encounter authentic locals and view countryside practically untouched by tourism. Even if it is becoming a much more popular vacation spot, I guess we just happened to be there at the right time (mid-March).

Riomaggiore
As we found out, we were lucky to make it to Riomaggiore that first day, as an overnight mudslide created a blockage for further train passage to the other 4 northern cities.

This also meant the main walking trails between these cities was out of the question, too.

But we still managed to reach the next town over, Manarola, by hiking a steep, straight-up mile or so to the highway and taking that another half mile, perhaps into town.

Here, we found the sights just as unique and fascinating. Trying to take a picture that isn't a cliché or a repeat of one on Google is more difficult than it seems!

We had endured the off-and-on rain all day and honestly didn't mind, but by then were starting to get a little cold.
Manarola
On our way back to Riomaggiore a "carabinieri," aka police patrol, passed by us a couple times.

However, as they came back toward us a third time, my friend walking in front raised her hands in a gesture that said "Really? You're not even going to stop and see if we're OK walking in the rain for miles?"

In a prompt response the two young officers made a U-turn to swing back and check on us, which led to the three of us hopping in the backseat and hitching a lift back into town, the faster way.

Riding in the back of a cop car hadn't previously been on my bucket list, but since it happened I suppose I can mentally cross it off.

We made light conversation to the extent their broken English would allow, but most of it involved the Italian mob or actors in movies about it.

Manarola
I wanted badly to get a picture or video inside that vehicle but was afraid at the time that my shutter's "click" would somehow be deemed scandalous and illegal. So I decided I'd rather kick myself later than be kicked into an Italian prison.

Maybe the gangster talk got to me.

Anyway, we did end up getting a picture with them later when we found them taking a smoke break outside our little cafe, but the photo is on my friend's iPhone unfortunately.

Side-note: I'm not big on souvenirs, but if you ever visit this part of Italy, you HAVE to bring some canned pesto home. This region is known for this specialty and I was NOT disappointed when I used it on my homemade pizza a few months ago.

We ended our second and final evening well by gazing and pondering at the ocean for a couple hours, then ate delicious, local cuisine, again (it's safe to assume it involved pasta, but I can't exactly remember). Then we all ordered dessert and I ate some heavenly triple chocolate Italian decadence that was so rich my taste buds felt fat.

Anyone who has traveled outside the country knows WiFi is a precious commodity; not knowing when we would have it again we took advantage of it and booked our hotel stay for our final days in Rome.

Manarola
I should say my friends did, since they had smartphones and I did not at the time.

I gave my input when needed, but mostly stored up as much of the ambiance as I could so I could pack it with me.

The hum of jazzy bass beneath us lulled us to sleep that night, giving us rest for our next stop: Florence.


To be continued...

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,